Goose Lake, the Brewing Lair, and Plumas County, CA (Pt. 1)

Goose Lake

Goose Lake

Goose Lake has no geese.  At least none that I saw.  But the names of lakes, or anything for that matter, are not always in keeping with their characteristics.

Often, lakes (or at least the area) named things like Silver Lake, Gold Lake, Mud Lake, Rock Lake, and the ever-descriptive Fish Lake, have produced things like silver, gold, mud (this is true of most lakes even if their names are not “mud”), rocks, and presumably fish. Lakes named after people and towns also make sense, but sometimes I get the feeling that things are simply named as they are because no one could actually think of anything appropriate.

“Quick, Bob, what are some adjectives for this lake?  We need to name it so that we can finish our survey and move on to the next one.”

“Well, it’s a large, long, crooked, green-colored lake, complete with mud, rocks, and fish.”

“Okay, but we’ve already used all of those adjectives to name other nearby lakes.  Do you have anyone special you’d like to name it after?”

“Honestly, I think we’ve named lakes after everyone I know, and even a few people I don’t.”

And so we end up with names that don’t have anything to do with the natural features themselves.  Things like Lake Fanny Hooe, Nimrod Lake, Peckerwood Lake, Explosion Lake, and even Big Dummy Lake.  And while Goose Lake may have actually had geese at one time (or even now but on days when I’m not there), it still doesn’t seem like a particularly appropriate name.  Leech Lake might be a better choice.

My girlfriend, Dondra, and her sister, Bri, have been going to Goose Lake since they were young, though due to the apparent absence of geese and the recent appearance of leeches, it had to be renamed (at least by myself) just last year. I’ve been to Leech Lake a few times now and we decided that this past weekend would be the perfect time for a quick trip.

We got underway and although the drive is only about two hours from our house, we quickly realized that this might not have been the best weekend.  As we drove through Sierraville (make sure to stop and pet the animals behind the gas station), we saw how smokey it was.  The American Fire was belching smoke in the general direction of this pretty, little town.  We decided to continue on and see if things were any clearer at Leech Lake.  They were.

When we arrived, I parked at the entrance/day-use area and waited for my girlfriend to report back on whether there were any open sites at the lake’s north entrance. While one can park at a pull-out on the road and carry gear to each campsite, if your car can make it and there’s anything open, the north entrance is my preference. Be aware that there is naught for room to turn around and you’ll be driving over and around some pretty large rocks in the road.  I have taken a passenger car there (a Mistubishi Galant) and I’ve seen a friend do likewise, but I definitely scraped the bottom of my car so to drive in to some of the campsites I would definitely recommend an SUV, as I had driven on this trip.  (There are no signs that tell you there is no turnaround or you need a high-clearance vehicle, so fair warning.)

I am told that the lake used to be a free-for-all with no fees, no established bathroom facilities, or anything else, but that’s not the case today. Fees are $10 per night and there is a pit toilet, though no clean water.  Due to the smoke (there still was a little bit) we decided to only pay for one night and play the second night by ear.  Now, campsite secured, it was time to visit the brewery.

Dondra and I like to brew our own beer and having an appreciation for all tasty barley- and rye-based libations, we were exciting to visit a new brewery.  The Brewing Lair is based in Blairsden in Plumas County, CA.  We’d had their beer once at a Tahoe-area restaurant and we’d been so impressed, we asked the waitress where it was from.  Not everyone is as into the details of beer as we are, so she had to go check, but when she came back and told us it was about an hour or so north, we looked at each other in surprise.  We realized that would put it somewhere near Plumas County and we resolved to visit the next time we were in the area.

The Brewing Lair had five beers on tap when we visited.  There was a saison, and four types of IPAs, including a regular IPA, a red IPA, a black IPA, and a solo-hopped one which used only Citra hops.  All were delicious.  For five dollars, we each ordered a tasting flight which came with all five tasters in a lovely metal carrying tray.

Now that I’ve established the beers we had at our disposal, let me set the stage. The Brewing Lair is located a few hundred yards up a dirt road from the highway and the taps are located in the same building (and the same room) as the fermentation vessels.  Once you collect your beers, making sure not to step on any of the dogs (including Cody, Bri’s dog) running around the property, you wander outside where you can either sit at a table on the patio area attached to the building, or you can find a table or a bench down the hill.  In an open space among the trees, there are a number of rustic wooden tables and seats, some of which appear to have been carved from felled trees with a chainsaw.  There are cornhole boards (though, as a disclaimer, I will say that the boards and bags were not regulation), a slackline (I am awful), and there is a disc golf course on property. We finished our beers and resolved to return the next day.

Golden retriever chasing duck at Goose Lake

Cody chasing a duck while on a swim. This is as close as he ever got.

My girlfriend’s sister is something of an excellent bicyclist (both road and mountain), so we had brought out mountain bikes with us.  But not being overly familiar with the area’s trails, we stopped at a local bike shop (Howling Dogs Bike and Ski) in Graeagle.  The folks there were extremely nice and recommended a trail up Mills Peak for the following day. It sounded a bit extreme (well, maybe not for accomplished mountain bikers, but for me), so we resolved to lay low, drink a few beers, and hit the trail the following morning.  Cody was the only one who didn’t lay low, preferring instead to torment the ducks at Goose/Leech/Duck Lake.

Our ride turned out to be rather more than I had bargained for.

Read PART 2!

-Ryan Elson
Author of Don’t Step on the Dirt and Grow Your Family Tree Online

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About Ryan Elson

Ryan Elson is a travel author with a comedic bent. Whether camping, climbing, or just wandering around, he loves the outdoors. He is also prone to lengthy tangents that may or may not have anything to do with the story at hand. He has several works in different genres (travel, genealogy, fiction, sci-fi) in progress, some of which have additional information on his website (
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One Response to Goose Lake, the Brewing Lair, and Plumas County, CA (Pt. 1)

  1. Pingback: Goose Lake, the Brewing Lair, and Plumas County, CA (Pt 2) | Ryan Elson – Author of Don't Step on the Dirt

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